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The quick-service restaurant giant stated in a webcast held with franchisees last month that one in five customer complaints are related to friendliness issues, and this number is increasing. The webcast identified "rude or unprofessional employees" as the top complaint.
Consumers rate good service almost as highly as dollar value, the webcast added. "Service is broken," noted a slide in the webcast, as reported by the news outlet.
Decreased earnings could be a top reason why McDonald's is placing a significant focus on improving customer service now. Another possibility is that service is a top priority for Jeff Stratton, who recently became the chain's global chief restaurant officer.
"The new leadership has decided to focus on customer satisfaction as a real driver for us to build the brand and build sales," one McDonald's franchisee told the news source. "So, for us to maximize the potential that's out there, we've got to be the leader in guest satisfaction."
Whether McDonald's can improve its customer service is tough to determine. Many of McDonald's 14,000 U.S. restaurants are run by independent operators, who subsequently hire employees who receive low wages.
In addition to friendliness, customers also complain about speed of service, the Journal reported. One franchisee told the newspaper simply that weaker-than-expected friendliness and speed of service are an "ongoing problem, and it always will be."
Despite these challenges, not all is lost for the fast-food chain, the news outlet concluded. In January, McDonald's reported 2012 fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that exceeded analyst expectations and were fueled by new value menu offerings.